Birmingham 3 Norwich 0. If more things are learned in defeat than victory, then Seb Ward should have come away from St Andrew’s wiser than Gandalf. Here he is on Whittaker, Hoolahan, wake-up calls, Bennett and Alex Neil
Walk in the park
This league is bloody easy isn't it? We're gonna walk it. Smash it. DESTROY IT. Like a homing missile, bound for its target, with no obstacle in its way, and no chance of veering off course. That was the mentality post-Blackburn. That mentality is now floating at the water's surface like a limp fish.
Perhaps this is the wake-up call we needed. Yesterday proved that if you don't perform you will be punished for it. Admittedly not quite as clinically as in the Premier League, but punished nonetheless.
So shrug off that expectation - even an air of arrogance - that comes with being a 'big fish' in this league. There will be more tough games like this and few like our rosy start at Blackburn.
The real value of Pinto
If Steven Whittaker was a book, his critical acclaim would be along the lines of ‘Sometimes not bad!’ and ‘Good going forward...’. He'd be the sort of publication that's struggling for positive reviews, and has to slyly cut “never a dull moment” from “never a dull moment because you always feel he'll make a mistake”.
The Scotsman was caught out of position for the first goal, and did his best impression of a pair of scissors for the second. Clumsy barely does it justice – a line you most certainly don't want on the front of your book. I'm wary not to scapegoat but this was a real one-star performance. We know it, he knows it, Alex knows it.
A part of me feels sorry for him. He's honest and humble – or at least seems it when paraded in front of the press – and has had to put up with a lot of stick at Norwich; some fair, some not so, some really, really unfair. It's sad because he works and works and works and still manages to wind up short. As if there's a dark cloud following his every move across the pitch. Drip. Drop. Drip. Drop. Mistake.
To many this won't be something we've learnt. It is however a reminder of what we've gained in Ivo Pinto. Whittaker’s contract extension brought raised eyebrows; today it brought the same wretched mistakes, and it can go on no longer.
Alex in Wonderland
Alex Neil will often stress the importance of scoring first. He says it in most interviews, and mentions it at most press conferences. Perhaps it's obvious. Perhaps he’s right. Or perhaps it's because he doesn't know what to do if we go a goal behind. A game shouldn't be lost at 0-1.
Plan A was, in essence, to pass the ball into the net. Ambitious, yes, but not completely flawed. On paper it seemed ludicrous to play without a striker, but we saw how well Steven Naismith and Wes Hoolahan linked against Blackburn and I suppose Neil hoped for a repeat of that. But it didn't work. Hoolahan was wasteful, Naismith lacklustre, Jonny Howson seemingly non-existent. Brief spells of excitement came from wingers Jacob Murphy and Sergi Canos, but the latter faded midway through the first half. Having conceded that first goal, and a very poor one at that, Neil needed to have an impact.
For once his approach seemed entirely ineffectual; passive even. The introduction of Kyle Lafferty and Josh Murphy seemed hopeful and unscientific, and more of a display of his frustration than a strategy to win the game.
I guess his wonderful away record in the Championship was always going to come to an end at some point. It had to, and with the injury problems hindering his options perhaps he was just unlucky. But the resemblance of this game with the second half of Ipswich and Sheffield Wednesday is significant; it shows how he's failed to make an impact when it's been most needed, when things aren't going his way. And that worries me.
Hoolahan can have off-days
So the truth is out. Hoolahan is human. Humanahan. He, like other footballers, can also have really bad days on the pitch, and yesterday was one of those. Very little seemed to come off in terms of passing, link-up play and shooting. In the two penalty box situations he found himself in he managed a pullback that evaded four yellow shirts and a shot from five yards that lacked the lift to beat the 'keeper. We saw the Wessi who tamely missed that golden chance for Ireland against Italy, rather than the one who set up Robbie Brady in glorious fashion moments later.
Bennett really isn't Pique
I made this point last week. I shall make it again. Ryan Bennett can't pass, and that's not the fault of a wizard named Gandalf telling him he can't.
It's like he's a Sims character on the ball and someone has to choose what his actions will be. However, the selection of choices that appear above his head stretch as far as 'Lump it', 'Try something beyond my capabilities' and 'Pass it to Klose'. Hardly inspiring.
Marathon not a sprint
There we go. I've ticked the box of annoying overused cliché. The game was rubbish, but there's many more to come and we'll move on. Unless we don't, then I give you all permission to start PANICKING and throwing EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE. It shouldn't come to that though, right?
You can follow Seb Ward on Twiiter at @Seb_Ward